Tag Archives: expertly read

Back Pages by John L. Stanizzi

For my father

Ah, but I was so much older then,
I’m younger than that now.

My Back Pages
Bob Dylan

Just another day of flawless clarity,
as the gray canvass tarp of the dying river
nudged the distended carcasses of rotting fish
under a sky that no one ever noticed,
and you, the hod-carrier’s middle boy,
running from the bakery to your flat,
your stolen loaves of bread still warm and soft.


Frankie and Rosario out in front
every summer night for stick ball games.
Batting once, Frankie swung and missed,
rapped you hard and broke your Roman nose,
umbo on its bridge they never fixed,
aquiline distinction embarrassing you.
You remember this with alacrity.


Memories of joining the service out of spite,
and still the old man counted your army pay.
Reaching for your wallet he’d stare at you,
condemning you for walking out on him;
his share was every penny that you earned.


Angelo was the first to mutiny,
packed whatever he possessed and left.
Retelling this you never forget his gun
inside the zipper pocket of an old suitcase.
Legends are made in dirty hotel rooms.


Men grow up to see their fathers die,
and you remember yours as strong and good,
yet years would pass before you forgave his faults.


Joey showed up drunk one Christmas Eve,
undid what little grace your family had;
nine guys couldn’t bring him down.
Every year you resurrect that tale.


Jalopy parked against the curb, you posed
under the murky light that lit the sign —
Lun On Company Chinese Grocery –
you and Dolly in each other’s arms.


And after that she brought you home to Mama.
Useless to try and hide the truth from her;
Grease-ball alley cat was all you were,
underprivileged thug who came from Front
Street’s slums.  Her daughter certainly would not give
the time of day to a cross-town wop like you.


Soon enough you’d get to know her dad;
every night you’d go and find him drunk,
permanent fixture in the Red Ash Grille,
the Mayor of Albany Avenue holding court
early evenings giving in to neon,
memories that, in spite of things forgotten,
burn as if they happened yesterday,
every one a clear and perfect scene,
reminiscence that won’t abandon you.


Once there was a time that you would joke —
“CRS,” you’d laugh to all your friends,
then entire decades began to gray.
“Old Timer’s Disease?  What the fuck is that?”
Behind the now of the moment we are in
each remembrance turning into dust,
reaching back to where they used to be.


No memories can return; they don’t exist.
Oh, you will always be a business man,
veracious entrepreneur of your own making
endeavoring to work with dignity,
manual labor a constant source of pride,
but nowadays the road to work is strange,
every street some exotic foreign land,
relics of the streetlights burning out.


During the day now you are in your cellar
eking out a past from yellowed photos,
collages used to trap old memories,
each one carefully cut and placed and framed.
Mid-morning you will go out in your yard;
behind your stockade fence you will take off
everything except your underwear,
rattle a bell for the animals to come,


get down feebly on your iron knees,
offering peanuts to the squirrel you’ve named,
never once thinking about the days’
evanescent trek from light to dark.

Freewill Until 8 p.m. by Sheldon Lee Compton

A meeting will take place
in the rooms above the church
with coffee and awkward stories.

The white body of the church
is tossed onto the hillside
spilling guts of people now.

They rejoice and I wait,
the sky a warped purple canvas
in the spotlight of the moon.

That moon a puncture in heaven.
That puncture the size of a pill
between my finger and thumb.

Read by Tara Cavanaugh

The Romance of Middle Age by Mary Meriam

Now that I’m fifty, let me take my showers
at night, no light, eyes closed. And let me swim
in cover-ups. My skin’s tattooed with hours
and days and decades, head to foot, and slim
is just a faded photograph. It’s strange
how people look away who once would look.
I didn’t know I’d undergo this change
and be the unseen cover of a book
whose plot, though swift, just keeps on getting thicker.
One reaches for the pleasures of the mind
and heart to counteract the loss of quicker
knowledge. One feels old urgencies unwind,
although I still pluck chin hairs with a tweezer,
in case I might attract another geezer.

Love Song for June Cleaver by Rachel Bunting

June. Just your name is enough to make a girl
sweat.  We can only imagine what waits beneath
your full skirts. Don’t play coy, June, we’re not
living in the 50s anymore. Welcome to the brand
new century, a sex positive culture of vibrators
and feminists who wear lipstick and shave their
armpits. We’re not the troublemakers you once
thought we were, June. We talk about the problems
with our partners in public, we strap on and play
all the roles. We have opinions, we vote because
that’s what good girls do. We throw elbows
and wear fishnets, jump over each other in skates
at roller derby bouts while the needlepoint stays
home. We wear pants to the office, we answer
our own phones, we make the decisions that affect
the bottom line, we profit share, we pick up the kids
and drive through McDonald’s, we coif our hair
and line our eyes with black or brown or purple,
we watch tv shows about sex and enjoy it. We scream,
June, we scream when we come. We expect to come.
We vajazzle, we make our bodies sparkle, we ink them,
we work out, we show cleavage, we eat ice cream
in the morning, in bed, in the bathtub. We do it all
because we can, and we don’t wear aprons while
we cook. We can teach you everything you need
to know, June. Take our hand. Don’t let go.

Saturday Night in the Waning Days of San Francisco by Joe Clifford

(A Sonnet for My Ex-wife, Hadley)
The City burns slow pink electric—

liquor store signs, seething bug eyes, I

watch scamper white ghosts and paramedics

from my window to the street outside.

She’s asleep.  The white of her shoulder blurs

with the radiator steam as it rises.

She looks barely alive, against the flicker

of the pale sodium yellow lamplight

cast up from Sixth and Mission.  It’s months

before I’ll try to swing from a ceiling,

days before the arrest warrants come,

hours ahead of the sickness daylight brings.

Tonight’s just another dirty hotel room,

Far away from home, far away from you.

Holy Night by Richard Taylor

In the rumours of the lost rooms

And the passages of the ice aged

Heart of the old young world,

Confusion heaps on confusion.

He is a subtle postman comes,

And light laughs

In the corner of his garden’s face,

Hinting that behind,

And in his singular brain,

His envelope encloses

His moral mind, folded,

And impossible to undo

With your voice only.

And, then, you ask:

What is this inside this

And that which resides in that?

Nothing will ever reply,

Even the silence is a lie:

But we struggle,

Stone by bloody stone –

Stunned by our words,

Dumbed by the casual

Horror: numbed by our love,

Bitter, alone in this pacing place:

Alone in this light tormented place.

But night falls in the footfalled

Halls, where the monks tread

In holy mesmery. What are these monks?

Scribing the passages

Of time and what they think has been

Or what will come,

What tricks of fear

That grow the ghosts

Who stretch and die

That more blood be shed.

Fools! But so beautiful

Are their miraculous brains, so subtle,

That we remember Bach, and his holy

enrichment of the dark.

Children Kitchen Church by MaryAnn McCarra